Sepp Straka felt like he had been to the Sanderson Farms Championship before.
Another tight defeat in the playoffs.
Even while his defeat against Will Zalatoris at the FedEx St. Jude Championship seven weeks before wasn’t nearly as spectacular, another close call is still a hard pill to swallow.
Straka felt optimistic despite the Memphis defeat.
“It was a good fight. Got to be happy for that,” he said in August.
After a playoff defeat, not many individuals would use the term “happy” to describe how they felt about themselves. To see anything in that manner requires a lot of expertise. He may not have expressed all of his emotions to the public at the time, but what he went through was, in his words, “nerve wracking.”
He ended up in one of the strangest playoffs anybody has ever seen thanks to his last round 67 from the final group. On the second hole, both players produced incredible par saves, with Straka jumping up and down after sending his tee ball into the penalty area.
Straka followed Zalatoris into the penalty area on the par-3 third and final hole. Straka failed to locate the green from the drop zone as Zalatoris was considering what to do about his ball sitting on a rock ledge. When Zalatoris holed his putt for bogey and the victory, he had a putt for a double.
Ironically, Straka lost his first playoff game against a guy named Zalatoris who had every cause in the world to feel snake-bit.
He finished in second place at the Masters last year, lost in the playoffs at Torrey Pines and the PGA Championship, and fell just short of winning the U.S. Open by one shot.
He said that after he made it big in Memphis, he never felt sorry for himself.
Then Zalatoris responded, “This is why we practice. “You know, every week that we’re out here there’s some story of history. I’ve wanted to chase history my entire career and obviously that’s why I was so vocal about the majors. So obviously it’s great to finally get the first one out of the way.”
The main distinction is that Straka had exorcised the demon by winning the Honda Classic in February, his maiden PGA Tour victory. He no longer has first-win nerves.
However, despite how painful it is to lose two playoff games in a row, Straka’s demeanor remained almost unchanged after the defeat.
“Just more experience of getting myself in the hunt,” he said. “I think that’s huge, the kind of experience you can’t buy. It’s always the goal at the beginning of the week is on Sunday afternoon to have a chance, and I gave myself a chance. Unfortunately it didn’t work out, but next time it will.”
After winning the Honda, Straka earned two more top-10 finishes, but after that, he went on a run of eight missed cuts in 11 events that directly led to the playoffs.
He has had two playoff defeats since then, finished tied for 28th in the BMW Championship, and tied for seventh at the Tour Championship.
He has recovered from his disappointing summer and is now anticipating earning another shot in the next campaign.
Straka said, “I’m excited. “Golf game is pretty good, especially coming out of the break, you never know how you come out of a longer break. Yeah, happy the game is in good shape, and looking forward to next week.”
Original article posted on Golf.com
Photo credit: TIM REYNOLDS